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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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Christina Anderson

SPE Member since 2001
Member Chapter: Northwest

The Bentley Archives

Over a century ago a nineteen-year-old Vermont farm boy named Wilson Alwyn Bentley began a 46-year love affair with the typology of snow crystals. A century later, I began my love affair with the mordancage process and at the same time discovered Bentley's snow crystal photographs. Bentley's snowflakes with their black backgrounds were perfect for mordancage. The backgrounds would veil and dissolve in the caustic bath, a fitting visual metaphor for the floating and ephemeral nature of a snowflake. And because each mordancage print is completely unique, how equally fitting to the uniqueness of snowflakes. In the summer of 2010 the Jericho Historical Society granted me permission to use Bentley's archives. I created contact negatives from 52 of the 5000+ snow crystal images, which I then printed onto 8x10 gelatin silver paper. Out in the garage with its requisite excellent ventilation the prints went through the chemical baths. Here was more connection with Bentley for he, too, did all of his photography in his garage. For Bentley, the garage provided the cold that would preserve the snow crystals long enough to photograph. In my case, heat and sun are my allies, not my enemies. They speed the process along, and work to produce unique colors such as maroon, terra cotta, yellow, lavender, rust, and brown on a normally monochromatic black and white paper. I am infinitely satisfied to have married my work with Bentley's, and to have created unique, ephemeral prints from his unique, ephemeral subjects. But where the beauty of Bentley's snow crystals lies in their pristine, white, perfect surfaces, the beauty of my work lies in their darkened imperfections. All images are from the Wilson Bentley Archives/Jericho Historical Society ( contact if interested in exhibition or publication.













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